July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a time to raise awareness of the importance of mental health for our overall well-being and to educate the public on how to seek help. Mental health refers to cognitive, psychological, emotional and social wellness. Each year, millions of Americans face the realities of living with a mental health condition. Mental illness does not discriminate based on race, gender or identity. However, it has been found that depending on your background and identity, treatment can be more difficult to find.

National Minority Mental Awareness Month was first established in 2008 with the purpose of making mental health treatment available to all. It was also created to tackle the issues of access to mental health treatment within the Black and Brown communities. I want to take the time to highlight and acknowledge the fact that being Black while aging in America has many effects on one’s mental health.

The United States Administration for Community Living has identified that there are over 4 million Black seniors ages 65 and over. This is a generation that has experienced racial injustice and inequality but has also lived through various social movements such as civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights amongst others. The Black Lives Matter movement of today, has been particularly vocal about police brutality. But for the older Black generation, it is about the overall marginalization and disenfranchisement of Black people in America. This is the result of cumulative racism and increased oppression over time.

There are disparities to be found around issues such as housing, transportation, financial security/generational wealth, education, healthcare, health insurance and social services based on age and race. This in turn, has led to low health literacy, cultural mistrust of institutions, acts of discrimination and chronic stress that particularly affects Black seniors. The older generation of African Americans is at an increased risk of having race-related stress. Studies have shown that experiences of racism can have harmful effects on the mental health of minorities, especially African Americans. These effects can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Inability to concentrate due to flashbacks of traumatic racist events

I am bringing this to light as a concerned citizen who is aware of the lack of resources available to older adults and seniors and particularly Black individuals aging in America. I want it to be known and acknowledged that racism has lasting effects that need to be acknowledged that affects the quality of life among Black seniors. They are in need of the treatment and services just as any other citizen. The effects of racism and racial trauma are far too loud not to be seen or heard. I challenge you to join me in raising awareness to make a difference in order to allow Black seniors to age with dignity. #BlackAgingMatters

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